In this quick SEO (search engine optimization) discussion, I want to talk about how the headlines of your posts and articles relate to search engines along with the URLs of your posts and the Title tag. As far as SEO goes, we’ll keep it simple and only address these three subjects in this post, but they are three elements you can pretty easily use to your advantage. I’ve provided links to more info on SEO for each of these elements if you’re interesed in learning more details.
You should be thinking, “What is this joker going to tell me about writing headlines?” Not much–I’m not even going to begin to assume I have anything new or insightful to tell journalists about writing headlines that grab readers’ attention. In fact, I don’t have much to tell amateurs about writing headlines that hasn’t been written by other people. Keep doing what you do here.
Just know this…
The basic SEO rule is to use keywords that are directly related to your article. I don’t think that necessarily applies in every case, especially for news related sites. There has to be something to grab the reader’s attention, and this is your best shot at that. In the long run, my goal would be to have readers showing up to my site either directly or through references from other sites, and I’d want to grab their attention once they arrive. It’s a little bit of a tradeoff–your call though. It sure wouldn’t hurt to find a way to attract readers AND use keywords related to your post whenever possible. That’s what I’ve tried to do with this post.
This doesn’t get the emphasis it used to, but I think it still matters. Looking at the URLs below, it’s pretty clear which one tells you more about the article you’re reading, even though both URLs will get you here:
Google used to have a tough time spidering dynamic urls like the first one above, but not anymore. However, I think it is still important that you change your permalink structure so that you can have meaningful keywords if people link to you using the URL as the anchor text. In essence, you’ve dictated to these people the exact terms you want them to use when linking to you.
In WordPress the setting to change this is under “Settings”->”Permalinks” on your dashboard. One thing to note here is that I’ve changed the Permalink to be a little different than the headline in this post. I did this mostly to demonstrate it could be done, but also because the keyword “URL” may not work as well for humans (the headline) but I wanted to include it for SEO purposes.
Of course, your domain name plays into this as well, but chances are you are stuck there unless you haven’t purchased a name yet. It’s no coincidence that our domain name contains both of the terms “news” and “tech”. The “zilla” we threw in because we already had the logo designed. 😛
The Title Tag
The Title tag controls what shows up in the Title Bar of your browser. See how the Title of this page is different than the headline? That’s done for SEO purposes. Most people won’t pay attention to the Title tag, but search engines do! I think it’s probably the most likely of these three elements to be underutilized. If you’re building your site from scratch it’s pretty easy to control the Title tag on a page by page basis, but most people are using some type of content management system (like WordPress) these days. The “Title” tag is located in the header of a web page, before any content, and most CMSs will use the same header for every page in a site. Again using WordPress as an example, the default setting for each page will list the name of the website followed by the Headline for the post. If you change nothing at all, your headline, title, and permalink terms will all be the same.
Not bad, but we can do better. Since every single page on our site is going to include the web site name, it helps our SEO to use the title of the post and then the website name. It makes things more “differenty”–a little sense of variety if you will. And that’s what we’ve done here. The problem is, that’s not very easy to do without some help. Luckily there is the great All In One SEO plugin for WordPress that lets us take care of these things.
It’s a must have plugin for anyone running WordPress, and if you are running WP 2.7 it does everything for you right out of the box–almost. There is one key setting you should make however, and that is to specify your Home Title and Description. These are easy to find–they’are are the first two options when you go into the plugin settings. There are several other things we can tweak with this plugin, and we’ll cover those in separate posts. For now, this is a good start. If you are using another CMS, chances are there is something out there in the form or a plugin or extension to help you with this issue as well if the functionality isn’t already built in.
I’m sure there are plenty of people with way more SEO expertise than me out there who would like to throw in some other helpful tips an info regarding headline writing, URLs, and the Title tag, so feel free to let it fly in the comments.
- Don’t Forget to Add Tags!
- Link Narcissism
- How To Feed Twitter From Your Site
- Leveraging Twitter With Tweetmeme
- Your Words Belong To You